United States District Court, E.D. California
J&J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC. Plaintiff,
PETRICE M. MARINI, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
April 6, 2016, Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc.
(“Plaintiff”), brought suit against Petrice
Marini and Vincent Marini, individually and doing business as
Vinny's Bar (“Defendants”), alleging that
Defendants unlawfully intercepted a program for which
Plaintiff held exclusive distribution rights. On August 2,
2017, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion for partial
summary judgment as to Plaintiff's unlawful interception
and conversion claims. Doc. 45; see 47 U.S.C. §
553. On March 15, 2018, this Court granted in part
Plaintiff's motion for damages. Doc. 58. This action now
proceeds on Plaintiff's motion for attorney fees and
costs. Defendants oppose that motion. For the following
reasons, Plaintiff's motion will be granted in part.
Court found that Defendants violated 47 U.S.C. §
553(a)(1) by receiving a cable communication without
authorization. Doc. 45. In such a situation a district court
“may, ” but is not required to, “direct
recovery of full costs, including awarding reasonable
attorneys' fees to an aggrieved party who
prevails.” 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(2)(C); cf.
47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii) (requiring a court to
award attorney fees to an aggrieved party who prevails when
unlawful interception is by means of satellite). Plaintiff
prevailed on its claims.
Ninth Circuit utilizes a “lodestar” method to
compute reasonable attorneys' fees, which represents the
number of hours reasonable expended multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate. Ferland v. Conrad Credit
Corp., 244 F.3d 1145, 1149 n. 4 (9th Cir.2001) (citing
Caudle v. Bristow Optical Co., Inc., 224 F.3d 1014,
1028 (9th Cir.2000); Morales v. City of San Rafael,
96 F.3d 359, 363 (9th Cir.1996)). Consequently,
“counsel bears the burden of submitting detailed time
records justifying the hours claimed to have been
expended.” Chalmers v. City of Los Angeles,
796 F.2d 1205, 1210 (9th Cir.1986) (citing Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). If the
documentation of hours is inadequate, or if the hours
expended are excessive and unnecessary, the Court may reduce
the number of hours claimed. Chalmers, 796 F.2d at
1210; Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.
seeks attorneys' fees in the amount of $19, 855.00. That
figure breaks down to: 6.55 hours at $500.00 per hour for
Thomas P. Riley, an attorney licensed to practice in
California since 1998; 47 hours at $300.00 per hour for an
unidentified research attorney; and 24.8 hours at $100.00 per
hour for an unidentified administrative assistant. Mr. Riley
“specializes in the civil prosecution of commercial
signal piracy claims on behalf of promoters and
closed-circuit distributors of … major televised
sporting events and has done so since 1994.”
Declaration of Thomas P. Riley, Doc. 59-1 (“Riley
Decl.”) at ¶ 4. No information is supplied
regarding the unidentified research attorney or the
district court is required to determine a reasonable rate for
the services provided by examining the prevailing rates in
the community, charged by “lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience, and reputation.”
Sanchez v. Frito Lay, 2015 WL 4662535, *17 (E.D.
Cal. Aug. 5, 2016) (quoting Cotton v. City of
Eureka, 889 F.Supp.2d 1154, 1167 (N.D. Cal 2012)).
“The ‘relevant community' for the purposes of
determining the reasonable hourly rate is the district in
which the lawsuit proceeds.” Sanchez, 2015 WL
4662535, *17 (quoting Barjon v. Dalton, 132 F.3d
496, 500 (9th Cir.1997)); accord Gonzalez v. City of
Maywood, 729 F.3d 1196, 1205 (9th Cir. 2013). When a
case is filed in the Fresno Division of the Eastern District
of California, the hourly rate is compared against attorneys
practicing in the Fresno Division of the Eastern District of
California. See Munoz v. Giumarra Vineyards Corp.,
2017 WL 2665075, * 17 (E.D. Cal. June 21, 2017);
Nadarajah v. Holder, 569 F.3d 906, 917 (9th Cir.
2009). In the Fresno Division of the Eastern District, the
hourly rate for competent and experienced attorneys is
between $250 and $400, “with the highest rates
generally reserved for those attorneys who are regarded as
competent and reputable and who possess in excess of 20 years
of experience.” Silvester v. Harris, 2014 WL
7239371, *4 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2014) (collecting cases);
see Archer v. Gibson, 2015 WL 9473409, *13-14 n. 6
(E.D. Cal. Dec. 28, 2015). “This Court has determined
that $150 per hour is the ‘established rate' for
associate attorneys.” J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v.
Corona, 2014 WL 1513426, *3 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 16, 2014)
adopted by 2014 WL 1767691, *1 (E.D. Cal. May 2,
2014) (citation omitted). It is equally appropriate when no
information is submitted to establish an attorney's
Court (and other courts) has cautioned Mr. Riley regarding
billing of clerical work using administrative assistants,
lack of specificity in such billing by administrative
assistants, and duplicative billing by Mr. Riley and his
administrative assistant in the past. Corona, 2014
WL 1513426 at *2 (citing inter alia, Nadarajah
v. Holder, 569 F.3d 906, 921 (9th Cir. 2009); J&J
Sports Prods. V. Pagliaro, 2014 WL 7140605, *2; see
J&J Sports Prods. v. Patel, 2018WL 1609731, *6 (D. Ariz.
Apr. 3, 2018); J&J Sports Prods. v. Pinon,
2014 WL 3593629, *5 (N.D. Cal. July 18, 2014). Mr. Riley has
repeated the same block billing procedure, see e.g.,
Doc. 59-1 at 14 (“Preparation, Filing, and Service
of….”), and many of the billings for Mr. Riley
and his administrative assistant are identical, see
Doc. 59-1 at 6-15. As the Court found before, “given
the lack of specificity and the clerical and duplicative
nature of the tasks, ” no fees will be awarded for
tasks completed by the administrative assistant.
Corona, 2014 WL 1513426 at *2. A reasonable rate for
an attorney of Mr. Riley's experience remains $350.00 per
hour. Corona, 2014 WL 1513426 at *3. A reasonable
rate for an unidentified research attorney remains $150.00
per hour. Id.
hours claimed by Mr. Riley are unreasonable, duplicative, or
inadequately documented and should be reduced. Mr.
Riley's bill reflects considerable amounts of time
reviewing communications to and from the court. Doc. 59-1 at
7. For every docket item-many of which were only text entries
or documents filed by his firm-Mr. Riley bills expenditure of
six minutes for review of that item. For instance, Mr.
Riley's billing on August 2, 2017 reads as follows:
TPR Review of the Court's Order Granting
Plaintiffs Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and
Denying Defendants' Motion to Strike (ECF #45)
TPR Review and Execution of Service by Mail re: Order
on Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
Doc. 59-1 at 13. The second item listed is a docket entry
that reads, in full: “SERVICE BY MAIL: 45 Order on
Motion for Summary Judgment, Order on Motion to Strike served
on Petrice M. Marini, Vincent Marini. (Kusamura, W) (Entered:
08/02/2017).” See Court Docket. Indeed, nearly
every billable item attributed to Mr. Riley is six minutes
for reviewing some item in the Court's docket.
Altogether, Mr. Riley billed 6.55 hours. When considering Mr.
Riley's time entries in total, the amount of time spend
essentially reviewing the docket is unreasonable, not least
of which because of the limited substance of many of the
entries allegedly reviewed. Having reviewed Mr. Riley's
billing, the Court concludes that he could reasonably have
spent 4 hours reviewing the routine documents that he
itemized. $1400.00 in attorney fees will be awarded for all
of the hours billed by Mr. Riley.
Court has further reviewed the hours claimed by the
unidentified research attorney. Although the billings for
each of the filings are clearly estimates, each appears to be
a reasonable estimate. Forty seven hours for preparation of
the five substantive motions, replies, and supporting
documents filed in this action is not unreasonable. $7,
050.00 in attorney fees will be awarded for all of the hours
billed by the unidentified research attorney.